WHEEL OF FORTUNE

By Greg Ippolito

I’m going to kill tonight.
That was Jimmy Tuttle’s first thought as he climbed into his pickup and turned the engine over. But that first thought quickly faded, and for most of the long drive up I-44 toward Broken Arrow all he could think about was the look his wife gave him the night before at the Cracker Barrel. He’d dipped his quesadilla in a little too much Tabasco, which made his nostrils flare up and his eyes water. He must have made a face a child would make, because Sheila looked up from her plate and said, “Good God, Jimmy, please,” and shook her head with abject disgust. It hadn’t come from nowhere. He’d sensed a change in her that had been going on for months. Years, maybe. There had been signs. On their way to the restaurant even, Jimmy had been talking about work — he was very close to signing a new client, and was excited about it — when a worn-down look came over Sheila’s face and she raised her hand and said, “Stop, stop. Can’t we talk about something else?” After a silent ten minutes or so, she glanced around the inside of the truck and abruptly blurted out, “Jesus, how long are you gonna keep driving this piece of shit?” When he yelled back, “This is my dad’s truck!”, she just crossed her arms, turned away and looked out the passenger’s window. But it was that look in the restaurant he couldn’t shake. He’d seen all her looks; they’d been together almost nine years. But he’d never seen that one before. And something inside him knew what it meant: she’s flat-out had it with him. He recognized that feeling. Any girl he’d ever dated before Sheila would eventually bring it out in him, and he always knew what it meant: that it was over. Because once you’ve flat-out had it with someone, you don’t come back. As Jimmy got into Broken Arrow and turned down Kenosha Street looking for the motel, he tried to put it out of his mind. He tried to focus his speech instead, which was going to kill. Tonight was Eddie’s bachelor party. A “roast.” Eddie’s pop, Big Ed, had organized the

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thing, and had e-mailed everyone asking them to “be prepared to really break Eddie’s balls.” He added one last thing as a P.S., in all caps for emphasis: “PLEASE, NOTHING ABOUT RENEE.” Jimmy pulled into the motel. It was a seedy joint with a pale green roof, rust dripping from the windows. Only three other cars in the parking lot. He checked in and got his key, then walked back outside and down the sidewalk to his room at the end, beside the dumpster. They couldn’t have had more than a few rooms booked. It irritated him that the clerk would be so thoughtless as to stick him all the way down here by the dumpster. He thought about walking back to complain, but was overtaken by a sad, tired feeling, so he just trudged on. He unlocked the door and went in. He flipped on a couple of lights and sat down on the bed. The room smelled like cat piss. There was a stain on the rug the shape of Australia. He laid back for a moment to collect his thoughts and accidentally fell asleep. Jimmy woke to see, through a slight opening in the curtains, a sliver of moon hanging over the highway. Shit! he thought, popping up, What time is it?! The clock told him it was 7:12 pm. He confirmed it with his watch. Okay, okay, he thought. The thing started at 7:00, and was only a five minute walk away; we wouldn’t be too late. He opened his overnight bag and removed a flask of tequila and a travel kit. He took a long pull from the bottle and found his toothbrush and toothpaste. He gave his teeth a quick brushing, dried his face and hands, then pulled on his coat and went out. It was a brisk March evening in Oklahoma. The sharp air made his nose a little numb, so he quickened his feet. When he reached the VFW hall and went through the double doors, the first person who came into view was Big Ed. Jimmy hadn’t seen him in years. They hugged and patted each other’s backs, and Big Ed led him inside. The room was a wood-paneled number with a bar at one end. Four folding tables were spread out and covered in plastic tablecloths — Sooners colors: two crimson, two cream — with bowls of popcorn and pretzels on top. Scanning the room, Jimmy saw only two people he knew: Randy, a lanky wedding musician with a crooked nose who was Eddie’s best friend; and Ralphie, a fireplug of a man with a thick mustache and straw hat who was Eddie’s brother-in-law. The other twelve or so guys, Jimmy figured, must’ve been Eddie’s buddies from high school. He shook hands with Randy and Ralphie — it had been awhile — and they all took a seat at one of the tables. He was introduced to a

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couple of Eddie’s boys, whose names he forgot instantly. They cracked some beers, small talk, small talk. Then Eddie came out from the back. Jesus Christ, Jimmy thought when he first saw him, he must be three bills. It had been a few years, and Eddie had put on a lot of weight after the divorce. “You ol’ son of a turkey!” Eddie said, wrapping his arms around Jimmy and lifting him into the air. Jimmy smiled an honest smile. He hadn’t heard that expression since college. Jimmy had grown up withdrawn on a dreadful hay and cattle ranch run by his father. During his senior year, a girlfriend gave him a copy of On the Road to read. It lit a fire under him. He enrolled in Humboldt State and planned to flee west. After graduation, he took off — thumbing rides across Albuquerque and Phoenix, up to Flagstaff and the Canyon, through to Dixie National Forest, across to Vegas, down to L.A., up through San Francisco...and finally, on Labor Day, onto HSU campus and, he hoped, away from his father for good. Jimmy never declared a major, and quickly got tired of attending classes. He spent most of his time smoking pot and painting watercolors of the Pacific and the redwoods. At first semester’s end he was put on probation for poor grades. At second semester’s end, he was kicked out. Jimmy went crawling back home in shame. His father took him in and put him to work on the ranch. After a quiet six months of hard labor, Jimmy secretly enrolled at OU. Late the following August, he packed a bag one night and took off. He left his dad a note explaining. That’s where he met Eddie. The two were put together as roommates. They liked each other immediately. Eddie had an easy way about him. And Jimmy, Eddie thought, was really smart and funny. They bonded on their second night together. After a long day spent out in the sun plowing through a cooler of beer, they moved inside and onto Southern Comfort. Eddie told Jimmy about his girlfriend Renee from back home in Broken Arrow. He also told him what a big football star he’d been there, and how it was all over now. Varsity team headed to a state championship when he took a hard hit with his foot wedged in a piece of turf. “My ankle,” he said, holding it with both hands and wincing for no real reason. “I nuked it.” Then Jimmy told Eddie his back story. About how he was the grandson of James H. Tuttle, a great man for whom his hometown was named. And about how he was the son of James Jr., a nobody who’d broken his heart. His mother was a tough woman, sure, Jimmy said.

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How often would he be sitting at the kitchen table with his little brother George, when his father would come in from a long, grueling day in the fields to find his wife clanging pots around the stove, snapping, “This isn’t the life I signed up for, James! This is not working, James!” He can still envision her pulling on her sundress and wiping her brow, while his father ignored her and washed his hands in the sink. Maybe if he were in his father’s place he’d do the same thing and go off with another girl, like his dad had done with young Jenny Dawson from the feed company. Maybe. But he, Jimmy, would have had the basic decency to hide it at least. Did the whole town have to know? How could his father be so hateful? When she eventually found out what everyone else knew, it hit her like an anvil and sent her packing up, dizzy and bewildered, and running back home to Oregon. “Thass why I never changed ‘Jimmy’ to ‘James,’ ” he told Eddie, drunkenly. “I would never be a ‘James.’ I would never be like my father. Never. Never, ever, never.” Then after an icy moment: “The old man never loved me.” “You ol’ son of a turkey,” Eddie punched his arm, trying to laugh it off. “Of course your daddy loves you. He’s your daddy.” Jimmy shook his head. “No, man, you don’t understannn. You got a good girrrl, a good family. You’re lucky. But most people...I dunno...they ssspin the wheel and just come up empty.” Renee came down the following weekend for a visit. Randy came, too. Jimmy was stunned, almost immediately, at how poorly Renee treated Eddie. She complained about him virtually non-stop during her first hour there, sitting around the little apartment drinking white zinfandel from a coffee mug. When they moved on to the rathskeller, Eddie started telling Jimmy and Randy about this car he had his eye on — a burgundy ’67 GTO with rally wheels that his neighbor was selling back home. But mid-sentence Renee cut in with, “Oh, Eddie, please,” laughing, “you don’t have enough money to take me to a diner. You’re all talk, no action. No action,” she repeated, winking at either Jimmy or Randy — neither was sure which. Eddie’s face went gray, and he took her down the bar to talk. Jimmy leaned over into Randy’s ear and asked him what the deal was. “She’s just a bitch, dude,” he said. “They’ve been together since high school, and she treated him like shit even back then.” Then Randy nodded toward the bar’s side door. “Hey, you wanna go smoke a doob?”

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By senior year things had gotten really bad. Jimmy didn’t know exactly what was going on between Eddie and Renee, but it was obvious that his roommate had taken on an anxiousness. A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving — unable to wait, and desperate to do something, anything — Eddie drove out to Tulsa to surprise visit Renee at school. He knocked on the door of her apartment. No answer. He tried the knob; it was unlocked, so he walked in. Shower was running. He sat on the bed to wait, and saw her diary sitting out on the night table. He couldn’t resist. He opened it and started reading. And there is was: She was fucking another guy. A Marine named Tom. Eddie was reading this line, written in Renee’s loopy handwriting, when she walked in and caught him: “Do I love Tom? I think I might. Or could it be that the sex is just that fucking incredible?” He felt as if his stomach had been torn out. Eddie stood there, hunched over, the diary hanging limp in his hand. She attacked him for having invaded her privacy. Stunned, he could only manage to toss back a weak argument (the obvious one), before forcing himself out of there and into his car. He drove all the way back to OU in tears. Jimmy got him drunk that night, and Eddie swore up and down that it was over. “I never want to see her evil bitch face again,” he sobbed. “I don’t even want to think about her.” Within a couple of weeks, Renee was calling again. Eddie would be short with her on the phone each time, always hanging up afterward and shaking his head. This would only stoke his coals. He’d crack a beer and start talking to Jimmy about all the ass he was going to get now. Renee had locked him down for almost six of his “prime years,” he’d say, and now he was going to make up for that lost time. Jimmy would try to settle him down. Eddie wasn’t very good looking; he had a lazy eye and still carried a good amount of the football weight he’d gained in high school. “It’s hard to be single,” Jimmy would warn him. “Just stay relaxed, talk to girls, don’t expect anything. It’ll come when it comes.” Eddie would nod and say Yeah, yeah, but never mean it. And every time he’d go out to the bars or the frat parties, he’d make clumsy attempts to buy girls drinks, which never amounted to spit. Eddie spent Christmas break with his family. He went out to the bars in Broken Arrow, but struck out there, too. Now he was alone and embarrassed. When January rolled around and he got back to school, Renee started calling again, and he would be less short with her, less quick to hang up.

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Some time around late February, Renee arranged to come up for a visit. Eddie explained the situation to Jimmy: “I’m loving this. She’s so desperate to get back together that she’s gonna drive all the way up here, treat me to dinner, drinks, blah blah. And then I’m gonna send her on her way. I’m just using her, man! I can’t believe this is happening. She’s giving me my revenge!” But when Jimmy woke up the next morning, he found Renee lying there in Eddie’s bed. After she left, Eddie explained further: “No man, it was great. She bought me a big steak dinner, paid for all my drinks, and fucked me six ways from Sunday. I almost feel bad about it.” Then he snapped his fingers and winked, “Almost!” A few weeks later, Renee came up for another visit. She invited Jimmy to come along to dinner, which Eddie encouraged. They went out to the Sizzler again — she paid for Jimmy, too — and this time Eddie was as warm as ever. He even kept one arm around her waist as he asked the waitress questions about the salad bar. After that, Eddie would start taking Renee’s phone calls in private. Within two weeks, he was blowing off Friday classes to head out for long weekends (Jimmy never asked where). And it went on like that, this silent thing between the two friends, until about a year after graduation — when Jimmy found a wedding invitation in his mailbox one afternoon. Big Ed crossed the linoleum floor of the VFW hall to kick off the night. He said a few tender words about his son — said that Eddie was always a good boy and deserved the greatest happiness, and knew, just knew he would have it now with Angela. Then he brushed a hint of a tear from his eye and said, “Okay now, let’s roast his ass!” Despite Big Ed’s best hopes, this was a fairly uninspired and uncreative group of guys. All of Eddie’s friends were in mid-life and had been existentially weighed down by marriage and work and family. The only light-hearted ones in the room seemed to be the older men: Big Ed himself, Eddie’s soon-to-be father in law, Jack, and a couple of anonymous uncles who sat in the back with big grins. Randy went up first. He was stoned out of his mind, red-eyed and vacant. “Hey, what can you say?” he started out. “Eddie. Eddie, you’re a great guy. The best.” Someone in the crowd hollered, Yeah! “There’ve been some good times...and, you know, some bad times.” At that, Big Ed shot Randy a curious look. NOTHING ABOUT RENEE. “Anyway,” Randy pulled back, shaken, “what can you say, you know? I

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just wish you all the best, buddy. To Eddie,” he said, lifting his bottle. And everyone in the room echoed back those two words and drank. “All right, who’s next?” Big Ed popped up, clapping his hands. “Who’s next?” Desperate to liven things up, Jimmy volunteered. He’d been hoping to save his for last, to send the night off with a killer final chord, but that no longer seemed an option. He’d struggled with the speech for more than a week. He couldn’t really figure out what to write about. Big Ed had written: It’s a roast...break his balls. But how? The two most obvious ways to insult Eddie were to either bring up Renee (off limits) or his weight (too cruel). But on the ride home from the Cracker Barrel, in the cold silence of the truck, Jimmy randomly remembered something: Eddie’s dick. It was HUGE. Back in college, Eddie used to break Jimmy’s balls incessantly over how much bigger his was. This was Jimmy’s chance to turn it around; he finally had his hook. So when they got home, Sheila paid the babysitter and plodded off to bed while Jimmy fired up the laptop and went to it. He sat at the kitchen table for hours, working feverishly into the night, writing his own dick jokes and scouring the Internet for others to beef it up. In the end, he’d put together what he thought was a masterpiece. And now he took to the front of the room to unleash it... “If I may share a few words about my friend, our esteemed groom to be,” Jimmy cleared his throat. “In my 39 years on this earth, I have met few people with as big a heart as Eddie Bryson. But in that time, I have met absolutely no one with as big a...cock.” Laughs across the room. “I first encountered the ‘Bryschlong,’ as I would come to call it, when Eddie emerged from the shower one afternoon. Now, for those who haven’t seen it firsthand, let me try to explain: Eddie’s dick is so big, it has a nostril.” Laughs. “Eddie’s dick is so big, it jerks him off.” More laughs. “Seriously, though, to put it in proper perspective: the Bryschlong...has its own moon.” He was humming now. “Eddie visited the Grand Canyon once, and the Canyon saw him and yelled, ‘Noooooo!’ I mean, Eddie once, out of boredom, went and fucked a car wash.” The entire room was dying. “I’m serious! Eddie’s dick is so big, if he doesn’t sleep on his side at night, planes crash into it. We were once at a party in Norman, and he was getting a blow job in Tecumseh.” Full-room uproar. “Eddie’s dick is so big, when he ejaculates, 28 clowns come running out. Seriously! Listen, Eddie’s dick is so big that right now, he’s already fucking Angela tomorrow.” Angela’s dad eyeballed Jimmy. “Hey, how you doing over there, Mr.

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M?” Jimmy called to him, which just made everyone lose it. The old man took it in stride, laughing right along and clapping. Now it was time to bring it in for a landing, so Jimmy eased back and let the hoots and hollers and knee slaps simmer down. “You know, every man alive wants to have a big dick,” he went on, “so despite ourselves, perhaps we’re all a little envious of Eddie Bryson. Which is a shame. Socrates said that envy is the ulcer of the soul. That truth should resonate for us tonight. For this dear friend whom we envy couldn’t be a kinder, more thoughtful man. If anyone in this room needed it, Eddie Bryson would give you the shirt off his back. And if for some other, albeit strange reason, you needed the pants off his ass — well, he’d give you those, too. Which would, of course, bring us full circle...and leave us staring in amazement at the unholy flesh cannon that is...the Bryschlong.” The guys jumped to their feet with applause. Jimmy headed back to his chair with a wide grin, waving to the guys and mouthing Thank you, thank you. Eddie himself crossed the room to grip Jimmy is an ecstatic bear hug and lift him off the ground for a second time that evening. Jimmy’s felt blood rush to his face, warm and pleasant. He’d pulled it off. As for the rest of the roast, nobody else really brought anything worth while. One of Eddie’s co-workers, Rick, who was also an OU grad, had put together a slide show of photos they’d taken at the homecoming game the previous October. The room watched politely. In the dark, Jimmy saw a couple of guys check their watches. Somewhere around 11:00, the lights were up and the speeches were all through. Eddie’s boys had mostly settled around one table, sharing bad jokes and old high school stories between long silences. Jimmy was getting antsy. “Come on, guys,” he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the flask of tequila. He tilted it back into his open mouth and then passed it around. “Here, here.” Jimmy loved tequila more than any other alcohol. It made him crazy. He was hoping he wasn’t alone in that. They killed the bottle in short time. Everyone was talking louder now, laughing louder. Jimmy took Randy aside and suggested they mobilize the group to a nearby strip club. Within minutes, about half the guys broke for home, while the other half — eight middle-aged men — found themselves giggling and hollering as they piled into the back of Randy’s van.

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The pulled into a horrible looking place called “Puss ‘n’ Boots.” A sign at the edge of its crater-filled parking lot featured a neon drawing of a big-breasted woman with feline whiskers and a tail. The tail clicked left and right with the rotation of some invisible switch. After being patted down by a bouncer, the guys piled around a large table behind a railing. It was hard to see much; the lighting was far too dim, and the air was dense with smoke and some kind of sweetly scented mist. In the far corner, a pole and a juke box flanked each other on a dimpled slab of old hardwood floor. A bleached blonde with a nose ring and dark eye shadow walked over to the juke box and slid a dollar in. Her stretch-marked tummy hung over her G-string a little. She punched in a few numbers and the opening riff to “Sweet Home Alabama” came blaring through unseen speakers. With a bored faced, she cracked her gum and wrapped her hands around the pole. Jimmy ordered pitchers of beer and another shot of tequila for everyone. He was feeling loose and excited, and something automatic inside of him wanted to keep pushing it further. A metal door beneath an EXIT sign opened and another dancer came in from outside, trailed by some residual cigarette smoke. She was much better looking than the other — a black girl with a pretty face and a toned body. She wore a tiny red-leather two piece with matching stilettos. A small Superman “S” tattoo was burned into her muscular upper arm. “Over here!” Jimmy called to her loudly. She crossed the room in long strides and placed two delicate fingers on the railing. “Good evening, boys,” she said with a broad smile. “Our buddy here is getting married,” Jimmy told her, slapping Eddie’s shoulder. “He needs a lap dance.” She went around the railing and took Eddie by the hand. “Of course.” Eddie followed her to a room in back; his face was red and smiling. When the Lynyrd Skynyrd song ended, the white girl walked over and asked Jimmy’s group if anyone else wanted a lap dance. They turned her away. When the black girl came back with Eddie, Jimmy took her hand and headed back with her. The white girl snarled quietly, walked back to the jukebox and pulled a dollar from her Gstring. In the back room, the black girl pushed Jimmy down onto a large plush chair and draped a felt cloth over his crotch. He reached into his pants and adjusted his half wood. Another song started — something by Led Zeppelin — and the girl straddled him.

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“So, are you boys enjoying your bachelor party?” she asked as she began to grind. “Yes,” he said, almost inaudibly. “You the best man?” His brain didn’t process the question until a couple of seconds later. Then he quickly looked up and said, “No.” She giggled. “You don’t talk much, do you.” “My wife used to say that,” Jimmy answered. Then he corrected himself: “I mean, she does say that.” He shifted himself down in his seat. “She says I don’t communicate with her. Says I’m too in my own head, that I make her feel alone in the world.” The girl nodded along, not really listening. He told himself to shut up. She was stroking him in the perfect spot now. She smelled so good, and her huge nipples were just inches from his mouth. The song began to fade out. He knew she could finish him off if he had a little more time, but it was $20 a song, plus tip, and he was already spending way too much money. He thanked her and went back. From that point, the night broke away and into a blurry field of memory. There were more rounds of drinks. Randy was taking groups or two or three in and out of the EXIT doors to get high. Eddie kept going back with the black girl, while the white girl grew more and more bitter. And somewhere around 1:30, Jimmy came back from the bathroom to find the black girl at the bar and Eddie nowhere in sight. The guys later found him in the parking lot, curled up in a ball on the tattered asphalt, puking violently. They loaded him into the van and drove back to the VFW hall, where he was delivered back to Big Ed. That’s when everyone started to say their good byes. “What?!” Jimmy laughed. “Oh, come on. There has to be a good after-hours place around here.” Even Randy was fishing the keys from his pocket. “Not me, man. I’m toast.” Jimmy looked over the other bleary eyed, yawning faces in the group. There were done, all of them. He opened his mouth to make one last protest, but then closed it. Beat, he started back to the motel with his hands stuffed in his coat pockets. He was drunk, so his steps were taking him left and right a little. A strong breeze whistled through the barren tree branches above, and through them he could see the glow of the crescent moon. His mind turned to a phone call he’d received from his old friend Nancy

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just a couple of years before. She was part of their circle back in college — a good friend of Renee’s, actually, but she was all right. Nancy asked Jimmy how he was doing, it had been years. “My father died,” he thought, but didn’t say it; he stood in the kitchen with the phone to his ear, looking through the window at the old truck that had been left him, and just said, “Good, how ‘bout you?” Nancy said, well, that the real reason she was calling was because she was worried about Eddie. Renee had decided to move out — this was the first Jimmy was hearing of it — so Nancy went over there to help her pack up. “The house was an absolute disaster,” she said. “Like no one had cleaned it in months.” She tried to straighten up a little, she said. Dirty dishes had piled up and out of the sink and were flung to the far corners of the kitchen. She filled up the dishwasher, started removing moldy food from the fridge, stuff like that. And all the while Eddie just sat on the couch in an old t-shirt, staring out at nothing and drinking beer. Jimmy thanked her for the call, got in the truck and headed out to Broken Arrow to check up on his old friend. When he got there, Eddie was disheveled and unshaven but busy. Renee had taken everything, it turned out. The day after she took off, while Eddie was at work, she’d come back with movers and cleaned the place out. Eddie didn’t even have a chair to sit on. So he went to the shed out back and pulled out anything he could. Jimmy recognized some of the stuff; it had furnished their college apartment. The two of them stood there surveying the living room: a tattered couch with cigarette burns, a purple bean-bag chair, a beat-up coffee table, a Sooners football poster with a tear in the corner, and an old 13-inch TV propped up on milk crates. Eddie started laughing, shaking his head. “What is it?” Jimmy asked. “My life,” he said. At least there hadn’t been any children. Jimmy cut a soft right at the corner and walked on. He could see the lights of the motel in the near distance. Could it really be over? he wondered, even though he already knew the answer. He thought of his kids. Sarah was six now, Mark four. He thought about how much he would miss seeing them each day when they woke up and came downstairs for cereal. He thought about how much he would miss reading to them in bed, smelling their little bodies fresh from the tub, tucking them in and saying good night. He thought about picking them

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up for weekend visits (isn’t that what separated fathers did?) and how strange it would seem, how strange they would feel and act around him. He thought about how they would probably ask him, sooner or later, when he was coming home, and how sad and heavy their eyes would be when they asked it. He thought about all of this till his stomach ached, then he stopped thinking about it. He pushed open the glass door to the lobby with his shoulder and asked the night clerk if there was a newspaper or something he could read. Jimmy was afraid that, alone in a motel room with nothing to keep his mind occupied, he would be tortured by these thoughts and unable to sleep. The clerk had nothing. “Sorry,” he said. Jimmy walked down to his room at the end and went in. A couple of lights were still on from before. He took off his clothes and put on a tshirt and shorts he’d packed in his travel bag. He propped himself up against some pillows and flipped on the TV with a remote that was bolted to the end table. ESPN was on. A moment later, Jimmy realized he wasn’t watching the highlights at all; he was only staring blankly at the screen, his mind adrift. He thought back to a night years before, just after college graduation, when he and Sheila had taken to the road. She was going through a Kerouacian phase herself, and they decided to get in his old Ford Tempo and drive up through the Pacific Northwest. It only made sense that they would stop along their way through Oregon to visit Jimmy’s mother, who was living with her new boyfriend in a trailer somewhere outside Eugene. It was summertime and they arrived at early dusk. Jimmy’s mom hugged him, kissed him, introductions were made all around. Jimmy forgot the boyfriend’s name as soon as he heard it. Food was offered, but Jimmy and Sheila both declined; their stomachs were bunched up with nerves. They sat out in the living area on a faded plaid couch that creaked in the middle. It was hot inside the trailer, but Jimmy’s mom and her boyfriend sat on the loveseat wearing thin sweaters and long pants. Wheel of Fortune was on the TV. “So what brings you both up here anyway?” she asked. They explained about their road journey, all the places they were going to see. Sheila said that they hoped to make it up to Seattle and then head back down the Pacific Coast Highway and into Big Sur. (Not wanting to seem like an impulsive child, she left out the part about how she’d just read the book Big Sur, which is where she got the idea.)

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“Well that’s just great,” the boyfriend said, one eye on the TV. “It’s good to do that kind of thing when you’re young. ‘Cause, Lord knows, once you get older and have kids...” He inched forward and yelled to Pat Sajak, “ ‘A HOLE IN ONE’!” He leaned back. “Sorry. What I was saying was, it’s great you’re doing this now is all.” “Amen,” Jimmy’s mom said. “I gotta be honest, though,” the boyfriend said, turning to her with a smile, squeezing her knee, “I’m a little jealous.” She giggled back. Jimmy and Shelia got out of there in a hurry. They ran back to the Ford, hopped in and pulled away leaving an actual cloud of dust hanging in the air behind them. That was absolute absurdity back there, they both thought. Why do you need to be young to have fun and go on adventures? Oldness is a state of mind. That’s never going to happen to us. No words were exchanged, only a knowing look between them and a feeling that swelled in their chests. Through the windshield, they saw the sun setting behind the hills, a pink-and-purple streak across the horizon like wet paint. The air conditioning wasn’t working so they rolled down the windows and let the evening breeze in. Fireflies flickered on the side of the road and Sheila put her hand out as if to catch one. She looked back at Jimmy and laughed, and the sound could only be heard for a split second before flying back out the open window and into the night. He leaned over and touched her cheek with the back of his hand. Jimmy clicked off the TV and got under the covers. As he drifted to sleep he heard vehicles cruising by on the highway outside his window. Eddie was getting married in a month. It would be April. He hoped the weather would be warm for him.

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Greg Ippolito is a writer from suburban Philadelphia, and the co-creator of PhillyBookGeek.com. He is currently at work on his novel The Moorings. You can reach him at greg.ippolito@gmail.com.